Gastritis is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach. Gastritis is not a single condition but rather a term that refers to several conditions that may cause inflammation or irritation of the mucosal stomach lining. Although gastritis can affect anyone of any age, people who smoke, consume alcohol or take certain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen may be at an increased risk.
There are two types of gastritis--acute and chronic gastritis. Acute gastritis comes on suddenly without warning, accompanied by symptoms of nausea and/or abdominal pain. Chronic gastritis develops over a period of time. Those who suffer from chronic gastritis often experience bloating and/or a dull ache in the abdominal region following meals. In many cases, a person will experience no symptoms at all.
Gastritis is characterised by the following symptoms: abdominal pain, nausea, burning sensation, bloating, indigestion, vomiting, presence of blood in vomit or stool, loss of appetite and weight loss.
Gastritis can be caused by several factors including bacteria such as Heliobacter pylori, infection and trauma. Certain health conditions such as chronic bile reflux and pernicious anaemia, as well as many autoimmune disorders, can cause gastritis. Gastritis can also be caused by smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and prolonged use of NSAIDS (anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin).
Certain foods can aggravate gastritis, causing further discomfort. Foods or beverages that are high in acidic content can irritate the stomach lining. Excessive amounts of caffeine and/or alcohol can cause inflammation. Fried, greasy and spicy foods can cause additional stomach upset. It is best to pay attention to one's diet and avoid such foods.
There are several forms of gastritis; therefore various tests are necessary to diagnose the condition and its underlying cause. Your physician will order blood tests to check for anaemia as well as the presence of infection. A stool test will detect the presence of blood. An upper gastrointestinal endoscopy is a procedure in which a thin tube that contains a small camera is inserted through the mouth down into the stomach to view the stomach lining. This allows the physician to determine whether inflammation is present. He may remove a sample of tissue for further tests.
Treatment of gastritis depends on the specific cause. Your physician may prescibe an antibiotic if gastritis is caused by infection. Over-the-counter antacids can help relieve the symptoms of gastritis. Lifestyle changes may be necessary to alleviate the discomfort of recurring symptoms. It is best to avoid alcohol, smoking and high fat foods. Eat slowly and don't eat too close to bedtime. Drinking six to eight glasses of water daily can help to neutralise stomach acids.